Former Wallaby Hoiles chimes in on Hooper captaincy question
SPOTLIGHT: Former Wallaby loose forward Stephen Hoiles has hit back at all the critics questioning Michael Hoopers captaincy credentials.
According to him, Hooper is “probably the strongest [leader] we’ve had in over a decade”.
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Hoiles (16 Test caps) has joined Matt Toomua in backing the incumbent captain since his leadership has come under some aggressive scrutiny.
The latest string of results produced by the Wallabies are, to put it mildly, not worth mentioning and their quarterfinal defeat in last years World Cup has seen them slide down the world rankings to seventh place, the lowest they’ve ever been. It is a far cry from their halcyon days during 2004 where they were the incumbent No.2.
Incoming head coach Dave Rennie has said from the start that he’s coming into the job with a clean slate and his sole objective is to revive the Wallabies. He announced earlier this year that no player will be safe in retaining their place in the squad and this extends to 99-test Hooper, who had his first stint as captain six years ago at the tender age of 22.
Although he understands the position Rennie is in and supports him in his quest to find the right man for the job Hoiles was still adamant that he feels Hooper should be retained as captain of the national side.
“He’s probably the strongest we’ve had over a decade without doubt,” Hoiles, who played 16 tests for the Wallabies between 2004 and 2008, told RUGBY.com.au.
“I just don’t think it’s justified people questioning that whole ‘should he be Wallaby captain?’”
“It’s a no-brainer.
“He’s a phenomenal leader.”
Hoiles sentiments echo that of Melbourne Rebels playmaker Toomua who incidentally played alongside Hooper in both the 2015 and the 2019 World Cups.
Toomua made mention of England’s rise after a pool stage exit five years ago to make the World Cup final in Japan last year indicating Australia have a similar path to follow and believes implicitly that Hooper is the right man to lead them out of their current slump and back to winning ways.
“Yes, it hasn’t been the most successful time but these are learning moments for him,” Toomua said.
“I’d caution against [a change]. He just has a wealth of knowledge and experience and that’s all a part of it.
“I look back to England in 2015 and then where they went to in 2019, I don’t think they get to the final in 2019 if they don’t experience that hardship and, to me, that’s how I see our journey with Australia as well.
“It’s all a part of the story and whilst we have a new coach and a new chapter, there’s still going to be a lot of players who were a part of both campaigns and won’t be scarred but will learn from the past.
“He’s been captain of Australia under the one coach, he’s done a great job, now he’s going to have a new coach and he’ll learn more and he’ll develop.
“From my point of view, I do. I think it’s a no-brainer but we obviously have a new coach with new ideas and he’s a lot smarter than I am.”
As he so succinctly mentions though they have a new coach and as the final decision lies with him it renders all arguments in favour of Hooper retaining the captain’s armband moot unless Rennie himself decides he’s his go-to man.